TV advertising is a mess — these 23 industry insiders are working to fix it

22 most powerful TV advertising execs 2x1

  • The TV industry is undergoing massive changes as people flee from traditional TV to streaming platforms and advertisers shift big money from TV to over-the-top services.
  • And now, the coronavirus crisis is expected to accelerate viewers’ shift away from traditional TV.
  • Even as viewers flock to streaming services, reaching TV-sized audiences on those platforms is a challenge for marketers.
  • Business Insider identified 23 people from agencies, networks, consortiums, and adtech firms who are at the forefront of helping them navigate these changes.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

The $70 billion linear TV advertising business used to be considered indestructible, but it’s starting to crack.

People are cutting the cord more than ever and moving to streaming platforms like Netflix. Streaming companies are gunning for linear TV ad dollars with new ad formats and measurement.

And now, the coronavirus’ effects have rippled through the TV industry.

The cancellation of big, live sports events — the rare bright spot of linear TV — and a postponed Tokyo summer Olympics have left networks including ESPN, TNT, and NBCUniversal scrambling and billions of ad spend up for grabs.

The major networks cancelled their in-person upfront presentations that are used to pitch advertisers on their programming, which Wall Street firm Cowen expects to cause TV ratings to drop and viewership to move to streaming services.

“While the upfront process that begins in May has been getting less important for several years, the pandemic could be a catalyst for major changes in the process,” John Blackledge, managing director and senior research analyst at Cowen, wrote in a recent note. “The combination of deep uncertainty about the economy and the fact that production shutdowns mean there will be little to sell poses a particularly difficult challenge.”

Adtech companies are building tools for marketers to buy, sell, and track their ad spend on digital platforms. And agencies are finding new ways for brands to advertise with networks and publishers.

Still, reaching TV-sized audiences on streaming platforms is a challenge for marketers.

“It had never been too broken that it needed to be fixed, and now it is,” said Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, an adtech firm that helps advertisers buy and measure TV ads. “Everyone in the ecosystem recognizes it, but I think change is hard.”

Business Insider identified 23 experts from agencies, networks, streaming companies, consortiums, and adtech companies who are working to solve these issues for advertisers. 

This list is based on nominations and our own reporting. These execs are, variously, helping marketers understand the coronavirus’ impact on media consumption, change ad creative to feature appropriate messaging, and move ad spend from sports-heavy networks to other networks or platforms.

Here are the 23 TV insiders to know, listed alphabetically by last name.

Kelly Abcarian, general manager, Nielsen Advanced Video Advertising

How she’s changing TV: She’s trying to make the measurement firm more digital

As people shift away from linear TV, established measurement firms Nielsen and Comscore have struggled to keep up with marketers’ demand for digital audience data. Abcarian, a Nielsen exec who has worked at the company for 15 years, is working to change that.

She has helped launch products like digital ad ratings that big platforms like Google, Facebook, and Hulu use to measure audiences. Abcarian has also worked on products like measurement tools for Roku and one that estimates Netflix’s viewership numbers.

Abcarian currently works on Nielsen’s advanced TV practice that is working to solve challenges related to targeting ads to specific households. Over the past few years, Nielsen has acquired TV firms to build out its addressable business, and Abcarian helped integrate those acquisitions and launch a linear TV platform with networks including WarnerMedia, AMC, and Fox.

Sean Buckley, chief operating officer, SpotX

How he’s changing TV: He sells advertising tools to OTT publishers

Buckley, 32, is a rising star at SpotX, an adtech firm that helps publishers make money from connected TV apps through programmatic advertising. Advertisers then buy OTT space across multiple streaming apps through the firm’s software, which the company says reaches 42 million households.

Buckley develops SpotX’s supply-side platform and works with clients including A+E Networks, TiVo, Discovery, and Vudu. SpotX is owned by European media company RTL Group, and Buckley was involved in RTL Group’s acquisition of video adtech firm Yospace last year.

Buckley was previously chief revenue officer at SpotX and promoted to chief operating officer in January, expanding his role beyond sales to include the firm’s strategy and growth.

Tal Chalozin, cofounder and chief technology officer, Innovid

How he’s changing TV: He wants to make TV ads interactive

Chalozin co-founded video advertising firm Innovid in 2007 and is working to make OTT advertising easier for brands to buy and measure. He leads the firm’s product and business development and leads partnerships with companies like Roku, Hulu, and Facebook.

Innovid is most known for making interactive ad formats like skippable and game ads for brands like Pringles and Netflix.

More recently, the firm has pushed into measurement. For example, the firm has a deal with Roku that allows Roku’s advertisers to track ad delivery, reach and frequency in OTT campaigns.

Charlie Chappell, head of media and communications planning, The Hershey Co.

How he’s changing TV: He’s shifting big brand money from TV to streaming

While lots of big advertisers talk about moving money out of TV, Chappell has done so, and he’s experimenting with new types of video ads.

Chappell has moved some of Hershey’s TV ad dollars to ad-supported apps like Amazon’s IMDb TV and is experimenting with platforms to target people who don’t watch any linear TV with ad campaigns that also ran on linear. Hershey’s has also run OTT ads in Amazon’s streams of Thursday Night Football games.

He is working to solve challenges in OTT like frequency capping, which limits people from repeatedly seeing the same ad.

Hayley Diamond, EVP of digital investment and partnerships, Publicis Media

How she’s changing TV: She’s helping advertisers understand non-linear TV

Diamond uses her digital agency background in her role at Publicis Media Exchange, the advertising holding company’s investment arm, teaching Publicis Media’s agencies and clients the ins and outs of digital video.

Diamond advises advertisers on digital and streaming TV platforms that pitch targeting and reach that are equivalent to linear TV networks.

She also works with publishers and networks to find advertising, measurement and data opportunities for clients. She recently negotiated a deal with Hulu that let Publicis Group’s clients including Kellogg’s, Georgia-Pacific, and Chase test an ad format that allows binge-watchers see a commercial-free episode or an offer from an advertiser. According to Hulu, 62% of consumers who viewed the ads said they enjoyed the experience.

Steven Golus, independent sales and training consultant

How he’s changing TV: He teaches TV execs about digital

As more networks sell digital ads alongside linear TV, traditional TV sales reps have to learn new skills. Golus, a former digital ad sales exec who logged jobs at DoubleClick, Google, and Dataxu, is a consultant who trains sales reps at networks like AMC, Viacom, and Fox to sell digital advertising. He also trains TV buyers at agencies like IPG Mediabrands and Havas Media.

“You’ve got these linear sellers selling digital against Google, Amazon, and Roku that have deep digital backgrounds,” he said. “This is about giving them confidence and credibility when they’re selling.”

Golus’ trainings last an average of a month with attendees spending a few hours every week with him. He uses case studies and white boards to teach about ad formats, adtech and targeting.

Golus charges companies a fee for each person who takes a class and also runs more advanced classes on topics like OTT and measurement that are priced based on the type of class.

Jeremy Helfand, VP and head of advertising platforms, Hulu

How he’s changing TV: He’s making ads that don’t annoy TV viewers

Hulu was one of the first companies to bet big on ad-supported streaming video.

Helfand joined Hulu in 2018 and leads ad strategy, product innovation, technology developments and partnerships, and engineering operations. He previously worked in TV and media roles at Adobe and Advertising.com.

He is focused on enhancements designed to improve the user experience, like caps on the number of times viewers see the same ad and pause ads that display an ad when people hit pause. Helfand has also rolled out analytic tools for advertisers and a private marketplace that advertisers use to buy ads programmatically.

Based on the insight that 50% of Hulu’s ad-supported streaming sessions are binge-watched, he helped roll out an ad format late last year that triggered a personalized message after someone binge watches a few episodes. He is currently working to roll the format out to more advertisers.

Adam Helfgott, CEO, MadHive

How he’s changing TV: He wants to stamp out ad fraud

As more media companies roll out over-the-top apps, ad fraud problems from online advertising are following.

MadHive is one of a handful of adtech firms that is tackling OTT ad fraud. The company pitches publishers like Tegna and Scripps technology that uses blockchain technology and cryptography to detect ad fraud. According to MadHive, 20% of OTT ad space is fraudulent.

In addition to identifying fraud, Helfgott wants to package up local OTT inventory in ways to replicate TV advertising for buyers. MadHive sells a tech stack that helps publishers and advertisers sell and buy local OTT campaigns in 210 regions.

MadHive is also involved in an ad consortium called AdLedger that aims to create standards around how technology like cryptography is used in the advertising industry. Execs from Omnicom, WPP, Hearst, and Meredith are also involved in the group.

Jo Kinsella, president, TVSquared

How she’s changing TV: She’s helping advertisers measure TV

TVSquared wants to prove to advertisers that TV works for performance marketers.

Kinsella leads TVSquared’s sales and marketing teams as well as the firm’s overall business strategy. Since joining the company in 2012, she also served as chief revenue officer and EVP.

The firm works with advertisers like Untuckit, Expedia, and GrubHub and agencies to track whether people take actions after seeing a TV ad, like going to a website, downloading an app, or buying an advertised product. Advertisers use the data to plan and buy TV ads.

TVSquared also pitches networks like Comcast’s Effectv and NBC to arm ad sales teams with the data.

 

Alison Levin, VP of ad sales and strategy, Roku

How she’s changing TV: She wants to move TV advertisers to OTT

Roku has big ambitions to chip away at the $70 billion TV ad industry, and Levin is a key player helping it achieve those goals.

Levin was Roku’s first ad sales hire in 2015 and now helps lead a team of nearly 100 people. As consumers increasingly cut the cord and become harder for advertisers to reach, she pitches advertisers on Roku’s reach and ability to measure TV ads like digital ads.

One of her bigger challenges is convincing marketers that OTT can be measured differently than TV. Last year, she launched a tool called Activation Insights that recommends how advertisers should split ad budgets between TV and OTT based on the audience that a TV ad did not reach. She has also helped roll out an analytics product with adtech firm Innovid that measures the reach and frequency of TV ads.

Roku is betting big on The Roku Channel, its own ad-supported channel that streams TV shows and movies. Levin helps develop ad formats like branded integrations that live in The Roku Channel that reached 56 million viewers in 2019.

David Levy, CEO, OpenAP

How he’s changing TV: He wants to make TV advertising easier to buy and measure

Levy wants to speed up the decades-old process of how TV advertising is bought.

He spearheads OpenAP, a consortium of big TV networks like NBCUniversal, Fox, Viacom, and Univision that was formed in 2017 with the goal of creating standards for buying, targeting and measuring TV ads.

OpenAP’s marketplace pools viewership data from the networks and provides advertisers with ad-buying software to find audiences. For example, an advertiser looking for car shoppers can target that demographic across multiple networks. The idea is that buying this way helps fine-tune the ad targeting and measurement.

Levy said that about 100 campaigns have run through the marketplace since it launched in October.

“We have been laser focused on trying to bring as much scale as possible to audience-based television,” he said.

Most recently, Levy organized an advisory board with execs from agencies and advertisers like Dentsu Aegis, Amazon, and Taco Bell that will help steer OpenAP’s products.

Before joining OpenAP, Levy co-founded interactive video company True[X], which was acquired by Fox Networks for $200 million in 2014. At Fox Networks, he oversaw the sales team as EVP of strategy and operations.

Allison Metcalfe, general manager of TV, LiveRamp

How she’s changing TV: She wants to make TV advertising more targeted

Metcalfe leads LiveRamp’s TV practice that helps advertisers fine-tune ad targeting and measurement. The adtech firm’s technology takes advertisers’ first-party data like sales or CRM data and matches it with digital data for ad targeting.

Metcalfe oversaw LiveRamp’s $150 million acquisition of TV data firm Data Plus Math last year to build out the company’s TV offering. According to LiveRamp, the acquisition increased the firm’s TV business by 50%.

LiveRamp has long worked with big advertisers and more recently has tried to make inroads with publishers and networks. Metcalfe is working with streaming TV companies on addressable advertising, or targeted ads to specific households. She recently helped ink deals with adtech firms Beachfront Media and Beeswax that use IDs instead of cookies for targeting.

Laura Molen, president of advertising sales and partnerships, NBCUniversal

How she’s changing TV: She’s helping NBCUniversal move into streaming

Molen leads sales for Peacock, NBCUniversal’s big bet on ad-supported streaming that is set to launch this year. In addition to helping sign Peacock’s initial advertisers including State Farm and Target, her team assembled an advisory of advertisers, agency and NBC execs to build and experiment with ad formats for the streaming service.

She also oversees NBC’s direct-to-consumer ad sales team. DTC brands are starting to advertise more on TV, but for many of these performance-driven companies, TV is still out of reach in price and ability to prove it drives sales. NBCUniversal’s sales from these advertisers grew by 28% in 2019, and Molen’s team works with more than 200 DTC advertisers.

Most recently, Molen has been a key face of NBCUniversal’s sales team in adapting its ad products to marketers.

Molen joined NBCUniversal in 2013 and previously oversaw sales for NBCUniversal’s Telemundo and cable networks including Bravo and Oxygen. Before that, she worked at Viacom, Univision, and Turner.

Dave Morgan, CEO, Simulmedia

How he’s changing TV: He’s trying to make TV easier to buy and measure

One of the oldest TV-focused adtech firms, Simulmedia helps advertisers find linear TV audiences that match the advertiser’s goals. For example, it can predict what TV programs people will watch after visiting an advertiser’s website using a code advertisers put on their website.

The software also helps advertisers plan and measure TV campaigns.

Simulmedia primarily works directly with advertisers, and Morgan said that some agencies have viewed the firm as a competitor for years. That’s changing as agencies use more tools to track the growing number of places where people watch video.

While the number of streaming TV services continues to grow, the amount of ad-supported services doesn’t match the huge viewership numbers of subscription-based streaming services like Netflix, he said. That’s why Simulmedia is in talks with video game publishers and plans to roll out an ad product later this year that will insert commercials into games.

“The ad load in ad-supported streaming services is too tiny to compare to linear,” Morgan said. “We need to find something comparable to linear, and it’s in console-driven advertising.”

Morgan is an online advertising entrepreneur and previously founded the behavioral advertising firm Tacoda that he sold to AOL for $275 million in 2007. He also founded Real Media, which was sold to WPP.

Harold Morgenstern, SVP, head of national advertising sales, Pluto TV

How he’s changing TV: He wants marketers to buy into ad-supported TV

Morgenstern leads Pluto TV’s national sales teams in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

He is charged with selling ads against Pluto TV’s 250 channels and video-on-demand content from more than 120 media companies.

Pluto TV was acquired for $340 million by Viacom last year. The company is one of several streaming services that have been snapped up by media companies looking to get a piece of the streaming ad TV pie.

Under Viacom, Morgenstern is responsible for building out direct sales teams for brands and agencies that mimic the way that most TV advertising is sold, including upfront negotiations. Previously, PlutoTV leaned heavily on programmatic advertising to insert ads into content.

Sean Muller, founder and CEO, iSpot.TV

How he’s changing TV: He wants to make TV ads more measurable

Muller founded iSpot.TV in 2012 with the goal of speeding up how quickly marketers can pull data from TV campaigns and adjust budgets.

He wants advertisers and networks to start buying and selling TV ads based on metrics like conversions and incremental lift.

The firm is one of a handful of companies trying to solve measurement and attribution, which tracks ads to results like a sale or web visit, on linear and OTT commercials. ISpot.TV tracks all linear and streaming ads and pulls data straight from smart TVs.

Advertisers and networks like Fox Corp. license the firm’s technology to plan, target, and measure ads.

Ashwin Navin, CEO and co-founder, Samba TV

How he’s changing TV: He wants to target and measure TV ads like digital

Navin is an entrepreneur who founded Samba TV in 2008 with the goal of taking on Nielsen and Comscore in TV measurement.

The firm works with smart TV manufacturers to embed software that marketers and networks use to track what people are watching. Consumers opt-in to share their data and marketers use it to target and measure ads and compare the performance of TV with digital. According to Samba TV, its technology is built into 28 million connected TVs.

Over the past year, Navin has acquired three companies to build out data and analytics products. In 2019, Samba TV hit $100 million in revenue.

“We’re trying to bring TV up to the same level of transparency and accountability of digital,” he said.

Nicolle Pangis, CEO, Ampersand

How she’s changing TV: She wants to grow addressable advertising

Pangis leads Ampersand, an ad and tech firm jointly owned by Comcast, Charter, and Cox that’s focused on growing networks’ addressable advertising revenue.

Addressable advertising has long held a lot of promise for the TV industry with its ability to target ads to consumers based on data pulled from pay-TV set-top boxes. However, addressable advertising is still done on a small scale.

Ampersand pools viewership data from its three owners to target addressable ads to about 40 millions US households through set-top boxes. Advertisers use the company’s tools to buy, plan and measure TV and digital advertising campaigns.

Pangis joined in 2018 and rebranded the company formally known as NCC Media. Previously, Pangis was global chief operating officer at WPP’s mPlatform and Xaxis and global chief revenue officer at Xaxis.

Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer of domestic advertising sales, ViacomCBS

How she’s changing TV: She’s pitching the new ViacomCBS to advertisers

Ross leads ad sales for the combined ViacomCBS. She’s spent the last year uniting Viacom and CBS’ ad sales teams with a focus on finding new ways to work with advertisers.

Viacom had an early lead on other networks with its advanced advertising business that includes targeting and branded content products. The company also owns digital properties like influencer marketing firm Whosay and multichannel video network Awesomeness. In terms of streaming, CBS has the subscription-based All Access service.

A longtime TV executive, she previously ran ad sales for CBS before being tapped to lead ad sales for the combined company. She is tasked with pitching the company’s programs and ad formats collectively to advertisers with a splashy upfront event and negotiations.

Advertisers will get the first look at what the company has been working on for the past year in the next upfront. Similar to all of the major networks, ViacomCBS’s upfront presentation will be virtual this year due to the coronavirus.

“We’ll miss Carnegie Hall and our agency dinners this year,” she told The New York Times. “We won’t miss a beat.”

Tim Sims, SVP of inventory partnerships, The Trade Desk

How he’s changing TV: He wants to open up more programmatic ad space

The Trade Desk is one of the biggest adtech companies working to automate TV ad buying. The company sells agencies and advertisers software used to buy ads programmatically on publishers’ websites and apps. The Trade Desk’s spend on connected TV ads increased 137% year-over-year in 2019.

A large chunk of The Trade Desk’s bet on TV can be credited to Sims. He leads a team that works to plug its software into publishers’ connected TV apps like Disney’s ESPN, Channel 4 as well as some Amazon Fire TV apps. Advertisers can then buy ads across multiple apps.

The bulk of TV advertising is brought through negotiated deals with networks while OTT advertising is bought incrementally. As more money moves from TV to OTT, Sims is working with advertisers to negotiate upfront-like deals that include both linear and streaming commitments.

Catherine Sullivan, chief investment officer of North America, Omnicom Media Group

How she’s changing TV: She wants to change the annual upfronts model

Sullivan is a long-time media executive who worked at ABC and NBCUniversal in advertising roles before joining Omnicom in 2016.

She oversees the investment teams at Omnicom’s media agencies that work to find new ways of doing business with TV networks and publishers.

Sullivan has pioneered a new approach to the yearly upfront presentations that networks, publishers and platforms typically use to win over big ad commitments from agencies.

In 2018, she started organizing a three-day event around the time of the upfronts called the OMG Partner Summit that invites platforms, networks, and publishers to make customized pitches to the agency. The goal of the events is to help Omnicom identify new ways for clients to advertise while cutting back on the amount of meetings and presentations agencies have to attend.

As more consumers move to ad-free, subscription services like Netflix, Sullivan also works with platforms like Amazon to identify new ad-supported inventory for Omnicom’s clients.

William Wang, founder and CEO, Vizio

How he’s changing TV: He wants to sell smart TV-targeted ads

Wang founded Vizio in 2002 and is slowly building out an advertising business at the smart TV company.

Vizio owns data firm Inscape, which collects viewing stats from 14 million smart TVs and licenses it to TV networks and measurement companies to better understand what programs people are watching. Vizio also makes money from ads sold in its own ad-supported streaming service called WatchFree.

In December, Vizio formally launched an advertising unit to sell some of the ads that appear on SmartCast, its TV-operating system, and WatchFree. Media companies also sell ads on Vizio’s properties, but Vizio wants to sell more of the ad space. Vizio is also rumored to be an acquirer of TV tech firms this year to build up its advertising business, bankers, analysts, and consultants told Business Insider.

Wang is one of the founding executives involved in an ad consortium called Project Open Addressable Ready (or Project OAR) that includes members from NBCUniversal, CBS, WarnerMedia, and Discovery. The group is working to develop standards for addressable TV advertising.

Debbie Weinstein, VP of global solutions, YouTube.

How she’s changing TV: She’s making YouTube a big player for TV dollars

YouTube has quietly become a TV juggernaut that competes against top networks for ad revenue. Last year, Google made $15 billion from YouTube, more than NBC, Fox, and ABC’s ad revenues combined.

Weinstein sits between product and sales, planning ad products that are aimed at advertisers looking to move money from linear TV to OTT. Her team launched the YouTube masthead — a prominent and one of YouTube’s most expensive web ad formats — to its TV app. She also helped create ad sequencing technology that lets advertisers display a series of different ads to consumers.

A couple years ago, Weinstein’s team rolled out a product for advertisers that targets people who watch the YouTube app on devices like Roku and Xbox and sells ads in its pay-TV service YouTube TV.

“Whether it’s to learn new skills, be entertained or stay connected with your community, people are turning to video more than ever before,” Weinstein said. “On YouTube, we are seeing this trend play out as viewers determine their own ‘primetime’ seeking content that speaks to their personal passions or needs in the moment.”

Weinstein joined Google in 2014 and was previously the VP of global media at Unilever. Earlier in her career, she worked in ad sales at Viacom.